TLabs Showcase - TravelCandyNewsBy Kevin May | May 3, 2011Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring Australia-based member-only travel deal platform TravelCandy.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?TravelCandy is the leading invitation-only travel website in Australia. We are building an exclusive club of affluent travellers and inspiring them to travel by giving them hand-picked holiday offers they can’t find elsewhere.The idea came from discussions between Sam Friend, the ex-CFO at Wotif.com, and Ben Mercer, a telecommunications expert, about the need to shake up a boring Australian online travel market.The site launched in November 2010 with the help of the Australian tech incubator Pollenizer.What financial support did you have to launch the business?The start-up was self-funded and we are currently capital raising with a view to rapid expansion.What problem are you trying to solve?Australian tourism has been impacted by three factors; the GFC, natural disasters and the strong Aussie dollar. Tourist hotels and resorts, in particular higher end ones, are struggling to fill their rooms.TravelCandy allows them to discount to a closed group to protect their brand and increase occupancy levels.Consumers have less money and less time to search through the millions of Google results when they search "travel deals". TravelCandy delivers high quality hand-picked holiday offers at significantly reduced rates, delivered directly to our members in-boxes every week.Describe the business, core products and services?Limited duration sales of handpicked quality holidays to a closed member group. Our consumers are Australian and New Zealanders with disposable income and a propensity and ability to travel numerous times each year.Who are your key customers and users at launch?We have accumulated over 30,000 members through word of mouth and targeted partnerships.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?Yes. In April 2010 we ran manual promotions out to a crude email list directing interested customers to the hotel to book. There was a good level of interest so we proceeded to build the website.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?TravelCandy is an invitation-only travel website running limited numbers of short duration promotions at handpicked quality retreats and resorts.Everyone knows resorts are rarely full so we help our members take advantage of this by offering reduced rates at some amazing places. Being a closed club, the resorts protect their brand and our members save money on their holidays.TravelCandy also has professional travel writers reviewing and writing about the properties we are promoting. These are combined with TravelCandy Tips to form insider knowledge you won’t find on larger, less credible review sites.TravelCandy takes the booking and payment upfront, remitting the net amount, less a commission, to its suppliers 7 days after the promotion ends. As our membership grows so do the booking volumes and our ability to negotiate better rates for our members.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: Experienced team.First to market advantage.Agile development methods.Australian dollar strength.Strong supplier relationships. Weaknesses: Scale.Market awareness. Opportunities: To match our members travel desires with holiday offers.Growing quality content for our members.Expansion of low cost airlines. Threats: Every man, woman and dog are entering the online space = diminishing margins.Existing travel Goliaths, ie Wotif and Expedia.Macro economic risk.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?Quite a few industry people thought I was mad but I had a conviction there was space for a niche player to shake up the Australian online travel marketWhat is your success metric 12 months from now?10 million TTV and profitability. NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.